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So Long, Partners

In 1983 Gary Huck and I attended a convention of the International Labor Press Association (now the International Labor Communications Association). Our mutual friend David Elsila, editor of the UAW Solidarity magazine, introduced us to his fellow labor editors. As a result, we collected about 25 subscribers and mailed our first package of labor cartoons in October of 1983.

Over the following years our subscription list grew to about 120 subscribers in the US and Canada. Because of their support we were able to create 37 years of labor cartoons and seven published collections of our work. Today our archive resides at the Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives at New York University: http://dlib.nyu.edu/findingaids/html/tamwag/wag_264/

Sadly our tenure as labor cartoonists coincided with the decline of the U.S. labor movement. When we started, labor union density in the U.S. was 20.1%. In 2019 the movement had shrunk to 10.3%.

“Had shrunk” is the passive voice. In reality, federal government and corporate policies hostile to organized labor has slowly killed off the movement.

Before the New Deal, labor unions and collective bargaining were illegal. That changed in 1937 when the Supreme Court ruled that the National Labor Relations Act was constitutional. From then until the 1970s labor unions created a broad middle class, the first time in American history.

In 1981 Ronald Reagan fired over 11,000 striking members of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization. This began a generation of union busting by corporate America and state governments and the forced decline of the middle class.

Our tenure as labor cartoonists also coincided with the decline of newspapers in general. At the start of the 20th century, there were nearly 2000 daily newspaper editorial cartoonists in the U.S. Today there are less than 40 daily newspaper cartoonists, with the number rapidly falling.

Gary and I inherited a noble working class art form, from the IWW to Fred Wright. We mourn its loss and hope that someone out there will take up the mantle.

Mike Konopacki
Huck/Konopacki Labor Cartoons
February 19, 2020

24 Comments

  1. As we say in Pittsburgh, yinz did good! This retired labor is forever in awe, forever grateful.

  2. Mike and Gary, we’ll miss you! You guys were the BEST! (Mike, I’ve still got two of your original inkings: the “Early Warning Signs for Bosses” [May 1988] one and the “The boss never goes to jail for killing a worker, it’s always the perfect crime” [Dec. 1989]). Purchased them both at fundraisers for the Calumet Project (thank you for your contribution to that worthy labor-community coalition). And Gary, thanks for your work for the UE — I’m an old UE member, where I cut my teeth on unionism! You two were THE labor cartoonists of our age!

  3. Brothers,
    Thank you so very much for sharing your creativity and passion, and fucking awesome cartoons with the rest of us!

    During my lifetime in the movement, I have been blessed with many great Pals who inspire me to keep fighting….now more than ever we need huckkonopackicartoons!

  4. Thanks for the many brilliant cartoons!

  5. No one to carry on ?

  6. Working with the Mike Konopacki is the highest of honors and more than I deserve.

  7. Who Was the economist who wrote a paper in the late 60’s early 70’s I think. With a plan how to destroy unions?

  8. Thank you for all the amazing work you have done, and that I used over and over and over!!!! Very grateful And Mike, for your coming to the retirement party we had at Philaposh for Jim and Aggie Moran, with the Aazing art work you did for them. You will be missed. I do hope someone steps forward. I retired two years ago. Still trying to figure it out. Best Wishes and Solidarity Forever!

  9. Thank you.

  10. OH NO! You will be sorely missed. Thanks and all respect for your wonderful work over the years.

  11. Thank you for sharing your work. Up lifting up.

  12. I am a retired assistant director of the National AFL-CIO Organizing Department. I was also the Director of the Field Services Department at International Brotherhood of Teamsters And had the privilege of directing the 1997 UPS Strike and Contract Campaign. I am so sad this is going away. I used Hickeys Konopacki Cartoons in organizing drives and member mobilization campaigns for over 30 years. Sad, Sad day for labor.

  13. I always looked at you as union organizers/campaigners first, and fabulously creative artists second. I have many stories where entrenched Teamsters campaigns were eventually won by showing a single leaflet with a Konopacki Cartoon to a CEO.Solidarity forever, Comrades. Thank you for all you have done in lifting the labor movement and America’s working-class.
    Andy Banks
    Director Strategic Campaigns Unit
    Teamsters

  14. Your years as difference makers is appreciated by those, who have witnessed how powerful you cartoon story telling is. Your efforts have helped bring meaningful democracy to the nation’s workplaces. Thanks for your body of work (individually and collectively) which will stand the test of time. It is a testament to where your heads and hearts are. I am sure you will find new ways to make contributions toward making this a nation with liberty and justice for ALL.

  15. The best labor cartoons ever conceived and created! I used them for many years as editor of UAW Local 488 News, prior to our plant’s closing in 1999. I have followed Gary and Mike’s work in other union publications and on Facebook since then. I am sad to see the demise of print media in general, and political cartooning in specific. Thank you both for many years of great work!

  16. A sad moment. Thank you so much for your fantastic work over all these years, and best wishes to you both, Gary and Mike.

  17. You two have not only been incredible artists with a piercing pen and wicked sense, but more than that, I’m proud to call both of you friends. We met up at those ILCA labor gatherings, at Black Lake wit Dave Elsila and our UAW friends (not to mention getting in trouble for those rich satirical pieces at Black Lake), and just being general good souls and good friends to hang-out with. Don’t put away that rapier with pen yet!

  18. As a long retired letter carrier and active member of NALC until well hopeful that the union and fellow employees could do well without me and my dealing with disability issues I have had the opportunity to often look over my experiences. Among them there are many memories and among them have been seeing “Konopacki” along with the graphics that supported workers over these decades. Thanks.

  19. I can’t believe it. Always loved you guys and your work. It’s as painful as the passing of a dear friend. Worse, were losing a critical piece of our movement. Please see that the work is archived, preserved and protected. All of us owe you both a great debt of gratitude. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

  20. You two have left your mark on the labor movement and your massive contributions will be reviewed by workers, union leaders, and scholars for centuries to come.

  21. You guys were and are the best!

  22. As seems always to be the case, we need you more than ever!

  23. Love you guys. Thanks for everything you have done for all of us!

  24. Amazing work and two wonderful people. Thank you.

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